Iceland is quite unlike anywhere else. Isolated in the far North Atlantic, the country feels incredibly remote, yet is barely three hours flying time from London. Home to some of the world’s best views and most spectacular wild landscapes, Iceland is a real bucket list destination and is filled with opportunities for adventurous activities. Read on for our recommendations of things to do in Iceland.
Things to do in Reykjavik
Enjoy the View from the Church Tower
Take the lift up to the top of the Hallgrímskirkja church tower, where you can stand on the observation deck and admire views of the city and its surrounding landscape. The church is the main landmark in Reykjavik and can be seen from almost all points of the city. Its unusual design was inspired by the shapes created by set lava on basalt rock.
Taste Fermented Shark
Eating fermented shark probably isn’t the first thing that crosses your mind when you’re looking for things to do in Iceland – but we think it should. Head to the food section of Kolaportið, Reykjavik's flea market, to sample the national delicacy of Hákarl, cured with a centuries-old fermentation process. It may be an acquired taste but it’s one of the weird and wonderful glories of this part of the world, so give it a go we say.
Guided Tour of Harpa Concert Hall
Enjoy a guided tour of Harpa, Reykjavik's concert hall and centre of the city's cultural scene, which is used for exhibitions, concerts, cultural events, meetings and festivals. Its glass façade is inspired by the dramatic basalt landscapes of Iceland and is lit up at night, creating a fantastic sight. This is one of the city's best known landmarks, and tours are offered every day.
Things to do in Snaefellsnes Peninsula
A riding tour is a brilliant way to take in the scenery of the peninsula in true Icelandic style. Icelandic horses are renowned for having very gentle temperaments so are suitable even for beginners. Depending on your ability level, you can spend hours exploring the region's glacial rivers and valleys with knowledgeable guides, or we can arrange riding lessons for beginners.
Make the most of the fantastic opportunities to spot sperm whales, orcas and other large marine life off the peninsula. Orcas are most commonly spotted in winter and early summer, with April to June being the best time. They can also be seen throughout the summer. You may also see Minke whales, humpback whales, dolphins and porpoises, and occasionally pilot whales who migrate past the peninsula in large groups.
Explore the Insides of a Lava Cave
Explore the inside of the Vatnshellir Cave, an 8,000 year-old lava cave, by following the path of the lava flow over 650 feet into the cave and 115 feet below the surface. Equipped with torches and helmets, admire the amazing colours and various lava formations while hearing about how the cave was created by a nearby volcanic eruption centuries ago.
Reykjavik is the world’s most northerly capital, and a vibrant, cosmopolitan city despite its small size. With boutique hotels, excellent restaurants and notoriously good (all) nightlife, it’s a fantastic city break in its own right.
The real selling point of Iceland, however, is the desolate beauty of its wild landscapes. The forces of nature that have defined this young island are still very active - volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, mighty rivers and waterfalls continue to shape the landscape. Pristine landscapes of fjord, mountain, glacier, and moss-covered lava fields still dominate most of the island. Snaefellsnes is one such area – a starkly beautiful peninsula jutting into the North Atlantic on Iceland's western coast.
Iceland offers a huge range of outdoor activities from fishing for sea trout or river salmon, horse riding, sea kayaking, whale-watching, hiking or snowmobiling on the glacier-topped volcano that dominates the tip of the peninsula. Iceland is the perfect destination for an adventure holiday. Alternatively, you can drive to Borgarfjorour and visit the placidity of Deildartunguhver, Europe’s most powerful hot spring.
Super jeep and Snowmobile Tour of the Golden Circle
The Golden Circle - a route in southern Iceland- traces a path between three beautiful natural attractions and is one of the most popular things to do in Iceland. It allows visitors to get in touch with some of Iceland’s most famous and exciting natural phenomena such as Þingvellir National Park. One of Iceland’s most significant historical sites, it was here that Iceland’s first parliament was founded in 930 AD. In addition, it is the area where the two tectonic plates of North America and Europe meet.
From Þingvellir you head along mountain tracks towards the world-renowned geothermal area of the Geysir hot springs, this is where the name originates for all geysers across the world! From here you continue on to Gullfoss Waterfall which is also known as the "the Golden waterfall", one of the most stunning in all of Iceland and you can get very close to the water.
After lunch at the local café overlooking the falls, you can kick the action into a higher gear and trundle over rocky terrain to reach Langjökull - Iceland's second largest glacier. Provided with suits, gloves and helmets you can kick the action into a higher gear and go snowmobiling – this is a great adrenalin fix, and the views are astounding, provided the weather behaves itself.
The super jeeps you travel in are specially formatted 4x4 vehicles and are the only types that are able to cross the terrain to reach the glacier. This excursion is a firm favourite of Original Travel’s and is a great way to immerse yourself in Iceland’s wild scenery and fascinating geology.
Get Off the Ring Road
As an alternative to the classic Golden Circle route, head north-east for the 162-mile Diamond Circle, perfect for those wanting to do a self-drive. Highlights of the route include Lake Myvatn, which is a great spot for bird watchers; Dettifoss waterfall, which holds the title of Europe's most powerful waterfall; and the fishing town of Hùsavík, which is fantastic for whale watching, particularly in the summer.
Thorsmork - or valley of Thor (god of lightning) - is a mountain ridge situated between three ice caps, including the popular Eyjafjallajokull volcano that last erupted in 2010. This picture-perfect area is ideal for hiking with longer or shorter routes available for to cater for hikers of any experience If the weather permits, explore this lush green landscape by jeep escorted by local guides who will retell the events of the famous eruption.
Discover the Myrdalsjokull glacier - one of the largest glaciers in Iceland - and explore the caves underneath it. Marvel at the black, white and blue ice of an 800-year-old cave; learn how it was formed and take plenty of Instagram-worthy pictures. Afterwards, head to the coast to wander along the famous black sand beach of Reynisfjara, which is considered a Hollywood star in its own right.